THE FORMER YUGOSLAV REPUBLIC OF MACEDONIA
Head of state: Branko Crvenkovski
Head of government: Nikola Gruevski (replaced Vlado Buckovski in August)
Death penalty: abolitionist for all crimes
International Criminal Court: ratified
Following elections on 5 July, government passed to a coalition of the Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization-Democratic Party for Macedonian National Unity and the Democratic Union for Integration (DUI).
Legal reforms required by the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union (EU) proceeded. In October the EU Commissioner declared it too soon to set a date for negotiations on accession to the EU. The 8 November progress report noted concerns about the independence of the judiciary, widespread corruption, failure to ensure the representation of minorities in public administration, and the situation of Roma despite plans for integration.
In May parliament voted to abolish compulsory military service as part of a government plan to establish a professionalized military in 2007.
Political rivalry between the two largest ethnic Albanian parties, the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) and the DUI, triggered pre-election violence. The DPA, which won more seats than the DUI, protested at its exclusion from government by blocking roads and holding mass demonstrations. Party leaders alleged that the Ohrid Agreement, which concluded the 2001 internal conflict, had broken down.
Between 15 and 17 June, DPA members allegedly drove a bulldozer into the DUI office in Saraj, two grenades were reportedly thrown at DUI offices in Struga and Saraj, and the DUI office in Tetovo came under attack. On 18 June unidentified gunmen shot at the car of the DPA mayor of Saraj, Imer Selmani; he escaped unharmed. On 23 June, DUI member Abdulhalim Kasami was shot and wounded in front of his house in Tetovo. On 24 June firearms were used in fighting in Rasce between DPA and DUI supporters, and three DUI members were injured. Criminal investigations were opened.
Impunity for war crimes
• Former Minister of Internal Affairs Ljube Boshkovski remained in the custody of the Tribunal. He had been indicted in 2005, with Johan Tarchulovski, for command responsibility for an attack on the village of Ljuboten in August 2001 when seven ethnic Albanian men died and over 100 more were detained, tortured and ill-treated. In October, the Chief Prosecutor to the Tribunal announced that four other cases in which the Tribunal had seized primacy but had issued no indictments - including the case of 12 Macedonian citizens abducted by armed ethnic Albanians in 2001 - would be returned in 2007 to the Macedonian authorities for prosecution.
• In April the Ministry of Internal Affairs reportedly issued a search warrant to establish the whereabouts of three ethnic Albanians - Sultan Memeti, Hajredin Halimi and Ruzdi Veliu. They were believed to be victims of enforced disappearance, last seen in the custody of the Macedonian authorities during the 2001 internal conflict. In May the Ministry said that an investigation into the enforced disappearance of six further Albanians was under way, but in November could report no progress in any disappearance cases.
'War on terror'
• The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe questioned Macedonia about the involvement of security and intelligence officials in the unlawful arrest, detention and ill-treatment of Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent. The Macedonian authorities reportedly held him in a Skopje hotel for 23 days in 2003 before rendering him at Skopje airport to the US authorities, who flew him to Afghanistan. The Macedonian authorities denied involvement, and did not open an investigation into the allegations. The new government failed to acknowledge that any violations had taken place. The European Parliament's Temporary Committee conducted investigations in April, including in meetings with government officials. In June it reported inconsistencies in the account given by the Macedonian authorities.
• In March, ethnic Albanians Rajmonda Maleçka and her father Bujar Maleçka were released from prison on appeal and expelled from Macedonia. Their original sentence of five years' imprisonment on terrorism charges in May 2005 had been confirmed in a retrial at Skopje District Court in November 2005. The Supreme Court had in 2005 stated that the charges were without foundation.
Torture and ill-treatment
In January the Council of Europe Directorate of Legal Affairs reported severe overcrowding in Idrizovo and Skopje prisons. Detainees received inadequate health care and educational activities because of continuing staff shortages. In May the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment visited Macedonia.
Also in May the European Court of Human Rights ruled admissible the case of Pejrusan Jasar, a Romani man allegedly ill-treated in police detention in 1998.
A new police law passed in October aimed at ensuring representation of the ethnic Albanian community in the police force. However, it failed to provide an independent mechanism for police accountability, including to investigate allegations of ill-treatment and torture by "Alpha" special police units.
Prisoners of conscience
On 3 March, Zoran Vranishkovski, bishop of the Serbian Orthodox Church in Macedonia in Ohrid and prisoner of conscience since July 2005, was released from the charge of allegedly inciting religious and ethnic hatred, but remained in detention pending trial on further charges.
Journalists were imprisoned for defamation, despite amendments to a law introduced in May which removed criminal penalties for the offence.
• On 21 November journalist Zoran Bozinovski was released from a three-month prison sentence for defamation following domestic and international appeals.
Although minority representation in police and municipal employment was introduced in July under the Ohrid Agreement, DPA members reported continued discrimination against ethnic Albanians.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women recommended in February that the government take temporary special measures to address discrimination in education, health care and participating in public life against, in particular, rural, Romani and ethnic Albanian women. In November the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights noted widespread discrimination against Roma, including in obtaining citizenship and personal documents required for social insurance, health care and other benefits, and recommended special measures to address discrimination in employment faced by Roma and other minority women.
• Mass demonstrations by the Romani community followed the disappearance of Trajan Bekirov, a 17-year-old boy last seen being pursued by members of a special police unit on suspicion of theft on 10 May. His body was found in a river on 27 May in a search organized by relatives. The authorities did not conduct a search or proper investigation, and only provided his parents with the autopsy report after international pressure.
Up to 2,000 Romani refugees from Kosovo, denied refugee status in procedures which often failed to provide individual determinations, remained in Macedonia. The government failed to provide access to education, employment, health care and housing.
Violence against women
In February the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women noted that legislation failed to define discrimination against women or the principle of equality of men and women. A law to this effect was introduced in May. The Committee was also concerned at the prevalence of violence against women, including domestic violence, and the persistence of trafficking in women and girls, including an increase in internal trafficking, despite a National Programme to Combat Human Trafficking and Illegal Migration.
AI country reports/visits
• Partners in crime: Europe's role in US renditions
(AI Index: EUR 01/008/2006)
• Europe and Central Asia: Summary of Amnesty International's concerns in the region, January-June 2006 (AI Index: EUR 01/017/2006)
AI delegates visited Macedonia in November.